Dispute over opencast mine Turow: EU wants to collect Poland’s debts

As of: 01/19/2022 7:55 p.m

Because Poland continues to operate the Turow opencast mine despite an ECJ order, the country should pay a fine. But so far the Polish government has not reacted. Now Brussels wants to withhold money from the EU budget.

By Matthias Reiche, ARD Studio Brussels

So far, more than 50 million euros have accrued. Because Poland did not stop lignite mining in the border area with the Czech Republic and Germany, despite an interim order from the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the Court of Justice ordered in September that Warsaw must pay 500,000 euros to the EU budget for every day the mine continues to operate.

Matthew Reiche
ARD studio Brussels

Commission spokesman Balazs Ujvari says that because there has been no response to the payment requests from Brussels, the further course of action is now clear: “The Commission will now examine which transfers from the EU budget Poland is scheduled to be entitled to in order to then deduct the outstanding payments from these funds.” , he explains. “Then the commission will inform the Polish authorities about the specific decision. Warsaw can then issue a statement within ten working days. A day later the commission will then decide whether the debts will be settled as planned.”

It’s high time, says Anna Cavazzini. She sits for the Saxon Greens in the EU Parliament and has been fighting for a long time against opencast lignite mining, which is also draining the people of the Zittau Basin. “Poland must bear the consequences for this,” says the politician. “And with the Commission’s decision to withhold funds now, the pressure on Poland is finally increasing.”

No country receives more money from the EU

In the case of the Turow opencast lignite mine, however, the penalties for Poland are bearable. No country receives more money from the EU budget, in 2020 alone there were net payments of 12.4 billion euros.

Cavazzini knows that too. “But you have to say very clearly that this is the first time that the Commission has ever resorted to such a means. And of course that has a certain effect,” she says. “And I just think it’s right and important to say: Rule of law principles apply in our European Union and the member states that don’t comply with them will ultimately be punished for it.”

New fine for dealing with judges

And there threatens further adversity for Poland. Because at the end of October, the ECJ imposed a new penalty payment. Warsaw has to pay one million euros a day as long as the so-called Disciplinary Chamber is not dissolved. This chamber aims to bring judges into line with the government by reducing their pay, transferring them or dismissing them, which the Commission and the ECJ have said is contrary to EU law.

For this reason, Brussels is also continuing to withhold the Corona aid money for Poland, 24 billion euros in grants alone that Poland does not have to repay. In addition, the country is threatened with the use of the so-called rule of law mechanism – this is a new clause to withhold subsidies if their correct use could be jeopardized.

EU threatens Poland with foreclosure

Matthias Reiche, ARD, Brussels, January 19, 2022 7:06 p.m


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